NCAA proposals address video review, medical forfeits, hands to the face, more
Posted by Mark Palmer on Monday, April 29, 2019 9:17 PM UTC


The NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee offered some proposed rule changes Monday to address some hot-button issues that have made headlines — and rankled some athletes, coaches and fans.

Among the sometimes controversial issues these rule-change proposals take on: the matside video review process … medical forfeits … and calls for stalling, and for hands-to-the-face. What’s more, committee has proposed relaxing current hair requirements … and offered yet another option to the singlet which has been the standard college wrestling uniform for nearly a half-century.

Note: the following are merely proposals, not actual rule changes. NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel is scheduled to discuss all wrestling rules proposals via teleconference June 13.

If the proposals are approved in mid-June, the new rules will go into effect for the 2019-20 college wrestling season.

Video review challenge could result in a stall penalty

The matside video review challenge process has drawn some heat, especially at the 2019 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. The NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee has proposed a change, which, if approved the Playing Rules Oversight Panel, where a coach’s unsuccessful video review challenge would result in a stalling warning for that coach’s wrestler. If the wrestler has received a prior stalling warning, the unsuccessful challenge could result in the loss of a point.

“Committee members think this will reduce the number of frivolous challenges and improve the flow of individual matches,” according to the NCAA announcement.

Medical forfeits could mean a loss of match

The NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee has proposed that a medical forfeit would result in a loss on the record of the wrestler unable to compete. “Counting medical forfeits as a loss was seen as a better indicator of the wrestler’s overall season success,” according to the explanation provided by the Committee. “Additionally, this would provide for improved communication between the wrestler, medical personnel and coach as to the wrestler’s readiness to enter competition.”

A newly revised penalty sequence for stalling violations

Here’s how the Committee described its proposal to “tweak” (their word) to streamline penalties for stalling violations: “The committee recommended a tweak to the penalty sequence for stalling violations. After the initial warning, the proposal calls for a single match point to be deducted for the next two violations. A fourth stalling violation would be a 2-point match deduction, and the last stalling violation would be disqualification.”

To provide some perspective, the current stalling penalty sequence is a warning, followed by single-point deductions on the second, third and fourth stalling violations, and then disqualification.

Hands to the face

The NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee has proposed a reclassification of “hands to the face” from an “unnecessary roughness violation” to an “illegal hold.” Here’s what that could mean: Rules for illegal holds indicate that “whenever possible, illegal holds should be prevented rather than called.” This would provide referees more flexibility to use verbal cues, issue formal warnings and/or stop the action as “potentially dangerous” before calling an illegal hold. Referees still have the option to call an illegal hold for hands to the face without warning if they determine it is appropriate.

A new proposal governing hair … and a new uniform option

According to the NCAA announcement, the Committee sought to relax rules regarding hair … and offer a new alternative to present collegiate wrestling uniforms.

Hair became a thorny issue in high school wrestling this past season, when a New Jersey wrestler was ordered by a mat official to have his dreadlocks cut or forfeit the match. The incident — captured on video which was posted online, then shown on TV — was viewed by millions of individuals within days, and generated considerable discussion within the amateur wrestling community and beyond.

The Committee recommended eliminating the rule prohibiting a wrestler’s hair from extending below the level of an ordinary shirt collar and the hair on the side of the head from extending below the earlobes. Some existing rules would remain intact: “Hair still will be required to be free of oils and/or greasy substances. Hair coverings still will be allowed and considered special equipment.”

The Committee also offered a possible third uniform option. In addition to the traditional singlet, and the form-fitting shirt-and-shorts option which was approved a few years ago, the new option would incorporate the form-fitting shirt but paired with “loose-fitting shorts designed for wrestling.”

“We’re opening up to be more progressive in the sport,” said Matt Valenti, committee chair and the associate athletics director of student development at the University of Pennsylvania. “This should give everyone more freedom of expression, and hopefully, make the sport more inclusive. We have our eye on the future with the thought that this could help the sport grow.”